My name is Sadish Dhakal and I work as the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the dZi foundation. We currently work in two districts in Nepal, south of Mt. Everest. Today, I am going to share something I learned during the evaluation of an income generation program in these two areas.
The income generation program has been providing agriculture training to farming communities. The model assumed that by introducing new crops that yield higher prices in the market, and by helping farmers produce them efficiently with new technology, we would be able to help them generate higher income. Accordingly, we have trained the community members on vegetable production, expecting health benefits as a potential side effect that could result from an increased vegetable consumption in the area.
The program so far has been successful. The communities are enthusiastic about vegetables. However, we learned that financial gain and health benefits are not the only positive outcomes of this project. Community members have reported that, before the program, only those who belonged to the higher class ate vegetables regularly. Now, because of the program, vegetables are consumed by people of all social strata. While it is not illogical to think that the increased income resulting from the program would reduce the class gap, we did not expect the increase in vegetable consumption to affect social class directly.
This program is only one example of many. It teaches us to adopt open ended evaluation practices, rather than evaluating only with the aim of measuring set indicators. Often, the communities know what changes are important to them, and know what changes are taking place. In fact, it is important to get the community involved in designing the indicators or even in setting programmatic goals.
Lessons Learned: Communities know best about their needs and have the most incentive to stay informed to the changes around them. Therefore, getting the communities involved in setting goals as well as measuring change is the key to successful monitoring and evaluation. Rigid evaluation methodologies which do not provide enough room for the community’s direct input can miss unexpected or unintended outcomes.
I am happy to have this opportunity to share with you the small, but exciting developments happening in the mountains of Nepal. If I can be of any help, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit http://www.dzifoundation.org/ to learn more about the dZi Foundation.
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